Her distress was evident. An encounter with a fundamentalist Christian neighbor--absolute certainty of convictions, numerous Bible quotations--left her frustratingly dissatisfied with her inability to articulate her convictions.
I was quickly drawn into her feelings, having often found myself attracted to such passion, certainty and clarity of belief and, at the same time, repelled by the accompanying dogmatism and inability to tolerate differing opinions. Out of self-protection, I began to articulate my own deep-core convictions.
Deep down, I feel I belong. I do not feel alienated from people nor from life. The angst of my early university years was fashionable not integral. I am not fighting parents and early upbringing. Often I do not like what I say and do, but such personal disappointment and disapproval do not undercut my sense of belonging nor make me wistful for another life.
Deep down, I find I am grateful. Life is a gift, and I have been grateful in whatever circumstances I have found myself--from the years of having to daily boil the open ditch drinking water which first flowed through several Turkish villages to the affluent years in Houston. Situations change, but gratitude remains.
Deep down, I know I am responsible. I cannot shake off the conviction that I betray life by a singular emphasis on myself. The ancient who wrote, "If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, what am I?" expresses well life's balance. I am a responsible part of this natural world and the people who inhabit it.
Deep down, I find I tolerate ambiguity. The diversity of this world is endlessly fascinating: how people give shape to their personal lives, how needs get formed into institutions, and how new ideas tantalize our minds. For me, this has meant that finding and articulating my own beliefs-in order to not deny the convictions of others--was a most difficult task.
Such convictions are not the exciting variety
which makes me want to buttonhole someone, but they are the solid,
steady beliefs that inform my days.
--Robert H. Tucker
11 May 1998